Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers (NYSE: RBA) is the world's largest auctioneer of agricultural and industrial equipment, such as tractors, trucks, harvesters and bulldozers. All of the company's auctions are unreserved, which means that there is no minimum bid and no reserve price. Ritchie Bros adheres to a policy of strictly preventing sellers from bidding on their own goods, which sets it apart from some competing auction houses. Ritchie Bros. competes with other industrial auctioneers such as WWA Group Inc. (WWAG) and Cincinnati Industrial Auctioneers, Inc., as well as traditional industrial equipment retailers like Titan Machinery (TITN). The company earned $327 million in revenue and $93 million in net income in 2009.
Ritchie Bros has expanded worldwide, with thirty-eight auction sites in ten countries. The weak U.S. Housing Market has caused a decline in the demand for new home construction which means that the demand for industrial equipment used in construction has fallen as well. Ritchie Bros is looking increasingly to its international operations to make up for sluggish domestic sales. International sales also benefit from a weak U.S. dollar, as sales in foreign currencies translate to more dollars and dollar-denominated sales become cheaper for customers in other countries. Likewise, rapid industrialization in China and other emerging markets increases the demand for goods sold in Ritchie Bros' auctions abroad.
Ritchie Bros. conducts auctions for industrial and agricultural machinery. In 75% of the company's auctions, sellers pay a flat commission fee when Ritchie Bros sells the equipment being auctioned. In auctions where the seller pays Ritchie Bros a flat commission fee, the company takes on almost no risk because an unsuccessful auction does not mean that the company has excess inventory. In the other 25% of auctions, Ritchie Bros either signs a contract guaranteeing the seller a minimum price for their item or buys the equipment itself. Whether the company guarantees a minimum sale price or buys the equipment outright, it uses its database of historical sale prices to determine a fair price for the equipment and minimize risk.
In addition to bidding live at the company's auction sites, buyers can watch the auction and bid online in real-time using the company's rbauctionBid-Live service. Ritchie Bros. screens and authorizes all online buyers before the auction to guarantee that online bids come from reputable bidders. In addition to bidding online, buyers and sellers can search the company's database to find the prices that previous Ritchie Bros auctions have closed at, giving them an idea of the fair market value of industrial equipment.
Biofuels subsidies in the United States are estimated to be between $5.5 and $7.3 billion a year. The Global Subsidies Initiative believes that if current trends continue, the biofuel industry will receive about $92 billion between 2006 and 2012. In order to collect subsidies, farmers expand their crops that are used to produce biofuels, increasing demand for harvesters and other agricultural equipment, resulting in more successful auction and commission fees for Ritchie Bros. At the 2008 UN emergency food summit, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), asked countries, such as the U.S., to decrease their biofuels subsidies in order to help decrease the cost of food. If the U.S. government reduces biofuels subsidies in response to international pressure, the domestic demand for the agricultural equipment in Ritchie Bros' auctions will decrease.
The Subprime lending lending crises, which lead to the fall of the U.S. Housing Market has cause problems in many industries like home construction. The decrease in spending on construction causes the demand for construction equipment like bulldozers and cranes to decrease as well. As construction companies have decreased their spending on equipment, Ritchie Bros has completed fewer successful auctions, which means lower commission fees and revenue for Ritchie Bros. On the other hand, when construction spending increases, so does demand for the construction equipment auctioned by Ritchie Bros.
If foreign currencies depreciate, the U.S. dollar value of Ritchie Bros' international revenue decreases. On the other hand, if foreign currencies appreciate, the U.S. dollar value of Ritchie Bros' international revenues increases. The weakening dollar gave Ritchie Bros’ revenues a slight boost in revenue since about half of the company's revenue comes from overseas.
About 60% of sales at Ritchie Bros auctions are shipped to buyers outside the region in which the auction is held. The lack of geographic boundaries, along with auction sites in Singapore, Australia, Dubai, Europe, and Mexico, provides Chinese, Indian, Russian and Brazilian bidders access to its auctions, putting Ritchie Bros is in a position to capitalize on the growth of the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) countries. As industrialization increases in emerging markets, so does the demand for industrial equipment. This demand from emerging markets has contributed to the growth of the company's revenues from outside of the U.S., Canada, and Europe.
Ritchie Bros. competes with other industrial auctioneers such as WWA Group Inc. (WWAG), small private auctioneers like Cincinnati Industrial Auctioneers, Inc. as well as traditional industrial equipment retailers like Titan Machinery (TITN).